Well, the parties are over.
Adrian Perkins won the mayoral election on Saturday, December 8.
He was sworn into office on the morning of Saturday, December 29.
That night he hosted a black tie, open-to-the-public gala at the convention center.
Perkins moved into his new digs at city hall over the weekend. He actually worked as mayor on New Year’s Eve.
His first city council meetings are Monday and Tuesday, January 7 and 8.
Now that the euphoria over his historic victory has subsided, what lies ahead for Perkins?
Perkins will start with a council that is excited over this victory. He can expect a honeymoon period when his plans will be readily adopted.
Perkins will have full discretion to name his administrative staff. This means many new faces will be in the city’s executive office as well as a new city attorney. And several city departments may have new leadership.
Perkins has been enthusiastically been received by the business community. He can expect support for many of his projects from this important sector.
The same can be said about citizens throughout the city. Many have expressed interest in becoming part of study groups to work with this transition team.
The city’s bond indebtedness was substantially paid down by the Tyler administration. Thus the city’s capacity to fund further capital improvements by bond issuances has increased.
Perkins has assembled a diverse well-qualified transition team. His plans to have citizen involvement in assisting this group is a welcome opportunity to tap into resources from Shreveport citizens.
Perkins is stuck with Shreveport Police Chief Alan Crump until his retirement. This is expected by mid-year, but it could be sooner. In the meantime, Perkins can implement new strategies for dealing with crime working with substitute SPD chief Ben Raymond.
Perkins is locked into the water/sewer replacement/renovation projects mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency consent decree. Better coordination of the work programs with utility companies and city street improvement projects is needed as well a review of total estimated costs as compared to bond funding.
The budget that was passed by the last council in December has estimated expenses over anticipated revenues. The city reserves are slated to subsidize the budget to the tune of $6 million dollars.
The sanitation department has consistently had challenges with its labor force. A “sick out” occurred the week before the general election and the discrepancy of wages paid by the private Bossier collection agency became a public issue.
Comparable pay for Shreveport police officers has been a constant challenge in recent years. Funding to promote the retention and recruitment of seasoned officers should be critical component of any budget re-structuring.
The convention center is an annual drain on the city’s revenues, which is normal for these facilities. The 2019 budget anticipates a $1.7 million operating deficit. The budget also includes $2 million dollars for necessary capital repairs and facility updates.
The Hilton now operates at a profit. Estimated 2018 revenues over expenses was approximately $864 thousand. The excess moneys are to be utilized for facility upgrades and reserve maintenance fund.
The city’s reserves should be $15 million dollars. The current budget forecasts a reserve of $2 million at the end of 2019. The reserve funds affect future municipal bond ratings, and thus the cost of borrowing money.
The Shreveport Department headquarters on Texas Avenue and Murphy have well-documented problems with air circulation, plumbing, and possible black mold. The costs to build and/or renovate the HQ has been estimated to be $26 million.
Shreveport has major blighted neighborhoods and a very large number of adjudicated properties. Stabilizing urban blight is hampered by complex legal issues and substantial funding requirements.
Increasing costs for health insurance and employee retirement plan contributions are major budget items. Additionally, the city budget is under pressure to contribute to unfunded retirement plan reserves.
Shreveport’s continuing population loss is the result of many factors, some of which are outside the scope of city Government. Nonetheless, a proactive strategy should be adopted soon to deal with this issue which has many far-reaching negative consequences.
The retained risk fund is a budget set aside for potential outstanding claims against the city. The 2018 reserve of $5.57 million is increased to by $8.2 million in 2019 based on the recommendation of external auditors.
Perkins will have a full plate in moving Shreveport forward.
As shown by his campaign, he has a strong work ethic and the discipline to implement a successful campaign.
This undergraduate economics degree from West Point and his law degree from Harvard equip him well with background knowledge to understand the complexities of city Government.
With support from the entire community and especially the downtown business sector, Perkins should be able to develop and then implement progressive business strategies at city hall.
Shreveport should give Perkins the time to make long overdue changes in the way the government has worked in Shreveport for the last 12 years.
(This article was published in The Forum on Wednesday, January 2, 2019)